While it’s still the early stage of fall where I live for our friends in the North winter is already well on it’s way. Hope you were able to get some nice fall colors with your slide film when it was at it’s peak! For me when winter arrives it’s time to focus on black and white photography. I shoot black and white year round but I find that the funnest and most challenging time to shoot landscape photography is in the winter. Something about the starkness of trees that have lost most of their leaves, snow on the ground and ice on the ponds and lakes makes for really interesting photography. Plus it gives me an excuse to get out of the house on otherwise cold and dreary days.
Winter photography has it’s own set of unique challenges. White snow against dark trees makes for a high contrast scene. You want to keep you snow white but you don’t want to loose the detail of the texture in most cases, and you also may want to keep some detail in the trees if you can help it. If you meter snow and over expose by 2 stops you will get white snow but often times the overexposure will make for very high contrast. When printing this loss of detail can be catastrophic to your image if not handled correctly, which takes a lot of work. Scanning gives you more control as long as the information was captured on the negative, but it may not be as visually appealing as the scene looked to the human eye when captured.
So what are the tricks of the trade for those fantastic winter photos taken by the masters? Well one method which seems to be effective is larger format film in slower ISO’s than most of us work with. Medium format negatives are a big improvement over 35MM in landscape because of the larger surface area. With more surface area to work with tonal graduations are more gradual. Slower film captures more detail so break out that tri-pod. Careful consideration to your metering is also paramount. If you use the in camera or handheld meter’s recommendation without regard to your scene more than likely you will not get the image your after unless you happen to get lucky. Like most of you I can’t afford a fancy spot meter. I do own an inexpensive 300mm zoom lens camera that fits my very affordable EOS 35mm camera with state of the art (in the film era anyway) metering. Instant spot meter. It doesn’t weigh much and it’s a nice kit for taking pictures of detailed smaller objects that normally get lost in a landscape as well.
Lastly a bit about your kit in winter. If you have a camera or other gear that relies on batteries bring spare batteries when you’re in near freezing or below temperatures. Keep them in a pants pocket or somewhere they will stay warm. Batteries do not always work well in the cold. It’s a good idea to bring gloves and water. Even though it’s cold your body can still dehydrate while out hiking.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing Wolfgang Moersch’s photostream on on Flickr you might have seen some of his winter work done with his Blad and Holga. Wolfgang Moersch is a master printer and has been at this for a while which is evident by the images he produces. If you’ve never seen his work go check it out, it’s simply amazing.